Because I came from a large family my mom had lots of creative and delicious ways to stretch a dollar when she served dinner for us. When I was growing up and my brothers and sisters were in high school and college there always seemed to be an extra friend or two at our dinner table. My mom never turned away a a kid who showed up at dinner time. She found a plate and they squished into our tiny kitchen where they would all eat their fill and miraculously there would still be leftovers. Mom was used to cooking for an army, so she was always prepared.
One meal that was always a hit in our house was her chili and rice. Now that I'm older I realize how expensive chili can get when you make it as hearty and delicious as my mom's was. It had a ton of ground beef and tomatoes and kidney beans, both light and dark as well as onions and spices. To make it more of a meal she always served it over rice. It eliminated the need for a side dish and made one bowl of chili a substantial meal.
Mom's rice for the chili was always prepared the same way. She would toast the rice kernals in the pan before adding any liquid. Stirring them round and round so they became evenly golden was a part that I could help with when I was little. I felt very important and grown up to get this task because I had to stand on a step stool and we had a gas oven so I was very conscious that flames were serious stuff and I didn't want to burn the rice or myself. I also got to unwrap the bullion cubes that she would toss in the rice just before she added the liquid. They were almost always gold foil wrapped chicken bullion cubes from Lowrey's. The flavor was infused into the already nutty toasted rice and made it extra delicious. It's an easy upgrade to any rice dish.
Because of my mom's inventive addition, chili without rice seems weird to me. I like chili most any way, but when I make it at home rice is always the bottom layer and I often top it with shredded cheese as well. When my dad ate it he always put pickles on it too, but I'm guessing rice is odd enough for most of you who probably eat it with crackers, cornbread or if you're from Cincinnati spaghetti. If you've never enjoyed it before try it with rice sometime. It's delicious.
Tonight's chili was different from what I usually make since I only used one pound of ground beef. I used a can of Bush's chili beans to try them out and they said they were hot but there was no heat to them at all. I added Tony Cachere's Creole seasoning, Sriracha and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper as well since Andy and I are both "trying" to get a cold. The heat seems to help break up sinus congestion and it is something we often make when we're feeling a little under the weather to help zap a cold bug. I also got to use some of the tomatoes Andy canned from our garden. I'm so proud that "Farmer Andy" (as his mom teasingly calls him) had so much luck with his plants in the garden. We have more jars of tomatoes, and lots of squash and zucchini in the freezer for stir fry this winter, and I'm looking forward to using his harvested veggies and blackberries into the spring.
The rice that I make is also slightly different from mom's. I like to use beef base instead of chicken just because it gives it a richer taste. I still add it before the liquid and I always toast the rice first to give it that great flavor. A cup and a half of rice and three cups of water make a perfect amount for the two of us to have for dinner with lots of leftovers. I will probably be taking it for lunch tomorrow at work - we're starting overtime which is awesome for my wallet but not so awesome for my sleep schedule because I have to be there at 6 AM. What the heck am I doing posting on my blog so late? Yikes. I have to get to sleep!
Hope you all had an incredible day. Hopefully I'll be able to zip through the last few chapters of Fred Schruer's Billy Joel biography and post a review tomorrow. So far the Piano Man's life has been terribly interesting. I'm loving the stories behind the song lyrics especially. Catch ya tomorrow!